Written by Alice Vandyke
Having a baby is one of life’s greatest gifts and joys. For most of us, once baby arrives, we have a tendency to get so wrapped up in their needs that we forget about our own. Making sure that you look after yourself after birth is just as important as your birth plan. Having a recovery plan in place should include what to eat after the birth of baby and will help you get back to being you as soon as possible so that you can care for your new bundle.
I have put together a list of my top recommendations for looking after yourself, at a time when you are solely focused on your new little being in the world! These recommendations should help with your recovery and make sure that you’re looking after you.
Now that you are feeding your baby on the outside, instead of the inside, it can be tempting to forget all about your own needs. But please remember from day one: You cannot look after your baby if you have not looked after yourself. If you are exhausted, hungry, dehydrated and weak, you will be no good to your family and you deserve to be well looked after, just as much as your baby!
During these early days, it can be most manageable to eat small regular meals when you get the time. Snack on smoothies, muesli and yoghurt (add some chia seeds), soup, pieces of fruit, trail mix and dried fruit.
During pregnancy your body creates a lot of extra blood to pump through the growing uterus, as well as to allow for blood loss at birth. This can lead to a normal decrease in Haemoglobin (Iron) during pregnancy and postnatally. Many women have an excessive amount of blood loss at birth these days, due to the increasing interventions in birth and rates of caesarean sections, which is why it’s so important to focus on replenishing your Iron stores.
I recommend visiting your local health food store and investing in a high quality Iron Supplement. Nutritionally, there are a lot of ways to boost your Iron stores back to normal. It is well-known that red meat is a very high source of Iron, however, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, it can be more challenging. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, as well as pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds), lentils and beans should be your go too. Combining these Iron rich foods with vitamin C sources will contribute to the Iron absorption.
Constipation is not something anyone wants to be struggling with after giving birth. Regardless of whether you have had a vaginal birth or a caesarean, you are no doubt worried about the pain of going to the toilet. Preventing constipation is of particular importance post-caesarean. The best way of managing this worry is getting straight on to your high-fibre foods, drinking plenty of water and fresh juices and if possible, walking as much as you feel up to doing.
Stay away from white bread and pasta and stick to a moderate amount of whole-grains. Metamucil is also a great addition to your daily routine. I know that sugar is getting a wrap for being as toxic as poison these days, but at this time you have my complete permission to chug down some freshly juiced fruits. Not only is this great for fibre, it’s also good for your hydration. Whole fruits and veggies are just as important.
It’s super important for your whole body’s functioning to keep well hydrated, but also of greater importance for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding literally sucks the nutrients out of you and it’s your job to look after yourself as well as that little sucker! Make sure to drink a few litres of water per day.
Numerous studies have shown that you need to up your calcium intake whilst breastfeeding to prevent bone degeneration. This is easily done in the form of dairy. However, if you are lactose intolerant or vegan, I recommend upping your calcium intake in the form of broccoli, tofu, nuts, seeds and salmon.
(Note: I do not recommend soy milk due to the links to premature hormonal changes and breast cancer).
Possibly not the recommendation you expected?! Okay so this is not study based, although I think if I decided to conduct a study I’d have a fair few willing participants! Postnatally one of the factors we midwives consider vital is boosting your Oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the love hormone which helps to create your bond with your baby and keeps you happy and loved up. Hot chocolate (all chocolate really) boosts your Oxytocin levels, dairy and calcium, hydration and happiness overall!
Looking after yourself and making sure that you’re eating right after baby arrival will help you with your recovery. By following these simple recommendations, you’ll not only help your body get the nutrients that it needs, you’ll also be feeding your baby what they need to thrive.
Remember a healthy, happy mum is a healthy, happy baby.